Powering Human Experience

Jamie Ferguson - City of Newcastle

Ray Poynter
November 12, 2020
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In this podcast, Ray Poynter (Chief Research Officer at Potentiate) interviews Jamie Ferguson (Community Engagement Specialist at the City of Newcastle) about the future of insights, as part of our Powering Human Experience series of interviews being hosted by Potentiate.

Listen to the interview here:


The City of Newcastle is in New South Wales, Australia, about a 2.5 hour drive north of Sydney, and is the 7th largest city in Australia. Jamie sits in a team called Community Engagement, part of the broader Media and Stakeholder Relations team. The two key aspects of Jamie’s role are helping colleagues by finding insights, and consulting with the community. The role of Jamie’s team is to stay close to people, ensuring they are represented and consulted.

2020 so far has required adaptation and change. Before the pandemic came on the scene, Newcastle had a big engagement plan for the year. When COVID-19 hit, the team had a short pause to think about what was needed and what was possible or appropriate. Very little research was put on hold, but some of the methods changed; for example, there has been more emphasis on digital rather than face-to-face. However, it is fair to say that insights have gained a renewed focus.

In future, Newcastle wants to expand its ability to gain insights from younger people, particularly in the context of strategic and longer-term plans for a growing city. Learning from recent experiences, becoming more agile, using new methods to capture information, and expanding beyond things like surveys are areas on which Newcastle will focus. These changes will leverage the concept of being a ‘smart city’, i.e. utilising ‘smart engagement’. A third theme is the ability to transform information into advice and knowledge. One of the key challenges is to move away from traditional ways of presenting information to newer options; for example, away from documents and towards real-time.

I asked Jamie to imagine I could offer him three wishes in the context of insights at the City of Newcastle and his choices were:

1. Getting better at communicating the impact of insights.
2. More use of social media to capture insights and drive outcomes
3. Creating more of a human-centred, user experience approach to designing and undertaking research.

This is just a summary, to get the full picture listen to the podcast, either by streaming or downloading.

About Jamie Ferguson | Community Engagement Specialist, City of Newcastle (Australia)

Passionate about making cities and populations better through translating research into practice, Jamie has over ten years of research experience working in local government and community engagement. Thinking creatively about ways to undertake translational research for a wide range of audiences including policy makers, urban planners, elected officials, and communities motivates him to facilitate turning insights into action. Jamie has worked for City of Sydney, City of Paramatta and for the past 2 ½ years with the City of Newcastle. His work involves consulting with the community regularly to seek the opinions of residents, business owners and other interested parties to ensure they play a role in the decision-making process.

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*Please note, Platform One was formerly known as Potentiate